County commissions, school boards and Buckhead cityhood slate are among lesser-known races taking shape
By John Ruch
The attention-grabbing melees for governor and a U.S. Senate seat were among the 2022 election battles finalized by the official candidate qualifying deadline of March 11, but many other races took shape, too, including county commission and school board races and a slate of pro-cityhood candidates in Buckhead.
Throwing in the Congressional midterms and the entire Georgia General Assembly, and it all makes for a busy election season as candidates head to May 24 primaries and the Nov. 8 general election. These are also the first elections under newly drawn maps following the 2020 U.S. Census, which has meant some incumbents retiring or seeking other seats and many voters facing new representation.
Incumbents Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock are already so deep in election challengers that citizens could be forgiven for not realizing none of the candidates were official until Friday. Campaigning is also well underway for Georgia’s lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general.
All 14 of Georgia’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, the majority of which touch on metro Atlanta, are on the ballot. Some of those races already have major media attention with candidate fields that grew bigger on qualifying day. Gwinnett County-based District 7 is a big one, where incumbent Carolyn Bordeaux is being challenged by District 6 incumbent Lucy McBath, a fellow Democrat whose district was redrawn by Republicans to make it impossible for her to win. The District 7 race now includes another would-be Democratic challenger and five Republicans.
Meanwhile, the north metro’s District 6 seat has drawn 10 candidates — two Democrats and eight Republicans — to be winnowed in the primaries. A similar battle royal has shaped up in District 10, a large area between Atlanta and Augusta, where Republican incumbent Jody Hice is leaving to run for Secretary of State. Thirteen candidates want that seat.
Incumbent members of Congress drawing significant numbers of challengers include District 14 Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right conspiracy theorist who drew eight potential challengers — three Democrats and five Republicans — and District 13 Democrat David Scott, who drew three challengers from each major party.
Still largely under the radar are many other races that just became official, with the positions up for grabs including a slew of Superior Court judges, the state school superintendent, some Public Service Commission seats, and the state labor, insurance and agriculture commissioners.
The following are some of the freshly minted races that aren’t beating you senseless with TV ads, mailers and candidates driving life-sized Hot Wheels trucks — yet. For a full list of qualifying candidates, see the Secretary of State’s website.
Local politics in the DeKalb County city of Stonecrest are still reeling from the downfall of founding Mayor Jason Lary, who recently resigned and pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funds. The May 24 ballot there will include a special election to replace him as mayor. The candidates include Diane Adoma, Jazzmin Cobble, Charles Hill Sr. and Kirby Frazier. Citizens have through April 25 to register to vote.
General Assembly rises, falls and musical chairs
Retirements, rising stars and redistricting will bring some significant changes to the General Assembly that will make for many interesting stories around the state.
Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) is leaving his District 116 seat after nearly 20 years. He chairs the powerful appropriations committee, making the loss of his experience and influence a big deal for coming sessions. Meanwhile, redistricting wrought some radical renumbering to metro East districts that shifts District 116 to the Stockbridge area. Current District 111 incumbent Rep. El-Mahdi Holly (D-Stockbridge) will be considered the incumbent of the new 116th and is running for re-election against Republican challenger Bruce Bennington.
A similar situation befell District 53 Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta), whose current district includes much of Northwest Atlanta and an adjacent part of Cobb County. She will now be considered the incumbent of the redrawn District 60, which includes more of western Buckhead. She faces a Democratic primary challenge from Steven D. Lee.
Meanwhile, Democrat Kelly Coffman and Republican Deborah Silcox will battle for the new version of House District 53, which stretches between Buckhead and Roswell largely along the Chattahoochee River. Silcox previously held the Buckhead/Sandy Springs District 52 seat but lost it in 2020 to Democrat Shea Roberts by a razor-thin margin followed by a legal controversy as she refused to concede for months. Silcox was the last Republican in that area to be washed out in Democratic blue waves.
Among political rising stars hoping to win a seat is Long Tran, a Democrat who will vie against Republican Brian Anderson for House District 80 in Doraville and Dunwoody. Tran gained attention last year for organizing a Dunwoody vigil for victims of the notorious mass murders at metro Atlanta spas and soon was a speaker introducing President Biden at a related visit.
Buckhead cityhood slate
With the Buckhead cityhood movement faltering, the Buckhead City Committee is making good on a promise to run a slate of candidates in area races. True to the deep partisan divide on the GOP-based cityhood issue, all of the candidates are Republicans. “When these candidates win they will sponsor our Buckhead City bills as representatives of Buckhead!!” proclaimed Bill White, the BCC’s chairman and CEO, on Instagram. However, with Buckhead voting blue these days, the candidates are all long shots, as a cityhood ballot question itself likely would be.
The candidates include:
- Christian Zimm, who previously announced his challenge to Democratic incumbent Nikema Williams in the 5th Congressional District. Williams also drew two primary challengers: Charlotte Macbagito and Valencia Stovall.
- BCC founder and president Sam Lenaeus, who is challenging Democratic incumbent state Rep. Marie Metze in District 55. Metze also drew two primary challengers: Nate Green and Inga Willis.
- John Bailey, who is challenging Democratic incumbent state Rep. Betsy Holland, a prominent cityhood opponent.
- Fred Glass, who is joining the field for the open seat in state Senate District 6, where incumbent Jen Jordan is leaving to run for attorney general. Other candidates include Republican Angelic Moore and Democrats Jason Esteves and Luisa Wakeman.
DeKalb and Fulton commissions and school boards
The DeKalb and Fulton commissions and school boards have several competitive races that will be decided on May 24, either because only Democrats are running or because the elections are nonpartisan.
- District 2: Incumbent Jeff Rader is retiring. Democrats vying to replace him include Lauren Alexander, Donald Broussard, Marshall Orson and Michelle Long Spears.
- District 3: Democratic incumbent Democrat Larry Johnson is challenged by Democrat Andrew Walter Bell.
- Super District 7: Democratic incumbent Lorraine Cochran-Johnson is challenged by Democrats Gregory Adams and D. Marie Monroe.
DeKalb Board of Education
- District 2: Incumbent Marshall Orson is running for the county commission. Vying to replace him are Steven Bowden, Wendy Hamilton, Whitney McGinniss and Candice D. McKinley.
- District 4: Incumbent Allyson Gevertz is challenged by Bonnie Chappell.
- District 6: Incumbent Diijon DaCosta is challenged by Janet Hughes and Venola Mason.
Fulton County Commission
- Chairperson: Democratic incumbent Robb Pitts is challenged by Democrats Jewel Johnson and Sonya Russell.
- District 1: Republican incumbent Liz Hausmann is leaving the seat to run for a state Senate office. Vying to replace her are Democrats Ricky Blalock and Margaret Goldman, and Republicans Bridget Thorne and Matthew C. Tyser.
- District 3: Republican incumbent Lee Morris is challenged by Democrat Dana Barrett.
- District 5: Democratic incumbent Marvin Arrington Jr. is challenged by Democrats Robert H. Kelly and Andre R. Sales.
Fulton Board of Education
- District 2: Incumbent Katie Reeves is not running. Vying to replace her are Brittany Griffin and Lillie Pozatek.
- District 5: Incumbent Linda McCain is not running. Vying to replace her are Kristin McCabe and Kimberly Ware.
- District 6: Incumbent Kimberly Dove is challenged by Latonya Martin Rogers.
- District 7: Incumbent Julia Bernath is not running. Vying to replace her are Linda Arnold, Phil Chen and Michelle Morancie.